Secrets of authenticity

The word authentic carries with it a number of meanings and implications. First of all, authentic literally translates to “real” or “genuine”. Philosophically and psychologically speaking, it is a term used to describe the degree to which a person is true to his or her own personality, spirit, or character – possibly despite external pressures or extenuating circumstances. With this in mind, who among us would generally not want to be perceived as an authentic communicator? The difficulty in achieving this often lies not in any intentional desire to be inauthentic or to mislead, but rather in getting rid of some barriers. The barriers are frequently self-imposed, difficult to shift and overcome and get in the way of us being real. What happens on the outside – our words, our behaviour as heard and observed by others – is only a reflection of what is happening on the inside. This means that credible and authentic communication really needs to come from a place of authenticity. If we have nothing to hide, can speak openly and honestly and confidently about what is important to us, then we are much more likely have a positive impact. What happens if we are not sure about who we are, or lack the confidence to be our true selves? Covering up and perfecting a facade is one way to go – but this can be exhausting and difficult to maintain. Surely it is better in the long run to remember that we are meant to be real not perfect? What about working towards being a first rate version of yourself rather than pretending to...

Words that make you feel

Words not only express ideas and contain information but many also transmit emotion. Just try reading the words below, one line at a time and see how they make you feel. Happiness           Healthy             Success           Celebration Misery                 Depressed         Failure            Sadness Taking into account the impact of these words on you, it should come as no surprise that you are much be likely to have a positive influence on your listeners and readers if you choose words that evoke positive emotions. This is particularly important when it comes to words that may mean essentially the same thing but could pack a very different kind of emotional punch. Consider for example: “thrifty” vs “cheap”                  “strong” vs “forceful”                “prudent” vs “cautious” Being aware that words can mean different things to different people – and understanding which words may have negative connotations for those you are addressing –  will support you in making appropriate choices to build the the kind of feeling that best serves your purpose. In general, people like to be spoken to directly and to feel engaged and involved. Instead of talking in abstract terms or using the passive voice, sprinkle your dialogue “you” and “we” and “us”; when you are aiming for cooperation try replacing “Will you please do…” with “Let’s do…” No-one wants to feel confused, bored or insulted either. So keep your language and sentence structure simple, clear and jargon-free; use verb-driven language to create a sense of action and excitement and stay away from all words that imply judgements or could be interpreted as offensive. Here is a real life example of...

The magic of metaphors

Metaphors and analogies are very powerful tools in communication. If you can encourage people not just to hear you but to see, feel and experience what it is you are talking about then your message will be stronger. This kind of enhancement  also means that listeners will be more emotionally engaged. Even simple, common place metaphors work well and their very familiarity is an advantage. They are  instantly recognisable  but their impact is much more far-reaching.  Whilst we may hear the same words when a speaker says someone is “as cold as ice”, each person associates into unique images and experiences that are theirs alone. It this individualised association that makes metaphors so powerful and draws the audience in.   Each language tends to have its own variations and specialties and not all metaphors cross borders well. Here are some examples from the English language: As warm as toast                     As bright as the sun                   As mad as a box of frogs                 All froth and no coffee          Painting the town red               Pulling a rabbit from a hat     You can also build in references to well-known stories, myths, historical and literary figures if they illustrate your point well and if you can be sure your audience will get them. Great communicators not only understand the magical appeal of metaphors. They are often masterful at painting pictures with words too so that their messages become more memorable. They will not just tell you that they ate a good meal; they describe how the food looked, how it smelled and vividly linger on the various tastes. The will not simply say...

Words to impress

When your goal is to be influential and get people on your side,  choosing your words carefully is critical if you want to shape the way people respond to you. Careful repackaging of words and expressions that for some could have negative connotations is a skill that can be developed.  And let’s face it, some words and expressions are simply superior to others because they do seem so much more positive. Why talk about “overcoming problems” when you can “rise to a challenge”? Why “fight objections” when you can “address legitimate concerns”? When it comes to numbers, “76 out of 100” is “more than three-quarters” and “49 out of 100” is “less than half”. Do you want to “fire” people or “let them go”, talk about something that is “expensive” or “top of the range”? This kind of repackaging – downplaying the negatives and upweighting the positives – is a legitimate rhetorical technique and can help you to make a favourable impression. However, the technique comes with a health warning attached. Remember there are some people out there who simply appreciate it when you call a spade a spade. If you make every negative a positive, they will soon see through your technique and switch off. Most importantly, The Training Box advises using this technique with “Win/Win” in mind and not with a view to manipulating. It is appropriate when whatever it is you want to persuade people about truly has benefits for them or when plain speaking could lead to disastrous consequences or unproductive, heightened emotions. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read  “The...

Networking: Be your own best advocate

“The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan The contacts made in business networking will be useful in a number of ways such as growing your business, reaching new clients or in reinforcing your own professional reputation. However, like all marketing tools, for business networking to deliver a return you have to invest time and energy, polishing up some skills or perhaps even acquiring new ones. In order to be remembered for all the right reasons, it is especially important to hit the right note when you meet new people or when you are offered the chance to make a short pitch to the group. In business networking, the medium is you! Your name /your company: (essential of course…) What is special about you /the company: (awards, qualifications, experience…) What you offer: (in a few sentences with strong focus on the benefits for the customer…) What you are looking for: (referrals, new opportunities, meetings…) The sign-off: (repeat or emphasise a point you want the listener to remember…) It is important to practise and be able to deliver this pitch confidently at the drop of hat. However, remember that networking is not just about referrals and very rarely will a first meeting result in an immediate sale. Our advice is to approach networking as a chance to get to KNOW others: Look to build relationships rather than attempting to make a sale. Use positive and welcoming body language to maintain rapport. Be enthusiastic and friendly towards fellow networkers. Give people your time and show interest in what they do by asking questions. Follow-up on any promises you make. When it comes...

Mindful listening as a force for innovation

“Without mindful listening it is simply not possible to extract what is important from what is said and to make the kind of connections that are needed for innovation.” Cristina Bianchi / Maureen Steele writing in Coaching for Innovation What is mindful listening? The ability to be a keen observer of even the smallest details is an important skill that innovators have in common. Thanks to this skill, innovators are able to pick up on more and make better connections. It is this ability to think associatively that leads to insights about new ways of doing things. Developing your powers of observation and the ability to listen at a very high level – listening mindfully – will enable you to make better connections based on what you are hearing, seeing and sensing. Hearing is a physiological process. It is largely passive and happens automatically although thankfully, you can sometimes choose to filter out those things you don’t want to hear and ignore them. Listening comes about as a result of a choice to pay attention, and is largely active. Listening actively means you place yourself at the service of the speaker and provide feedback on what you hear by restating, paraphrasing, and summarising. Listening mindfully implies that you activate your observational skills to the maximum and all of your senses, not just hearing, are receptive to what is going on around you. When you listen mindfully: You are fully present in the dialogue with all this entails, mind, body and soul and yet you retain the objective ability to observe the discussion from different angles. You clear your mind...